A recently published study of drinking and driving in the U.S. found that 15% of drivers involved in fatal crashes had blood alcohol levels below the legal limit and that 55% of the people killed were not the drinking driver.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that crashes involving blood alcohol levels below the 0.08% legal limit were more likely to result in the deaths of young people, compared to crashes involving higher BACs.
The new findings offer more reason to contact a car accident attorney if you are seriously injured in a crash caused by a drinking driver. You do not have to prove that a driver was legally intoxicated in a personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation. A claim requires evidence that would persuade a jury that the at-fault driver acted with negligence and thereby caused your injury.
“Our study challenges the popular misconception that alcohol-involved crashes primarily affect drinking drivers, or that BACs below the legal limit don’t matter,” study lead investigator Dr. Timothy Naimi of Boston Medical Center says in the article reported by U.S. News and World Report.
How Alcohol Affects A Person’s Driving Ability
It has long been understood that even small amounts of alcohol are detrimental to driving ability. A 2002 study by Texas A&M University’s Center for Alcohol and Drug Education Studies found that as few as one or two beers can seriously affect driver judgment and driving decisions.
“We found that persons who registered a .04% (BAC) – one-half the amount it takes to be legally intoxicated – had significant impairment in their driving abilities,” Dr. Maurice Dennis, the lead researcher of the Texas A&M study told Science Daily. “In a nutshell, what it means is you don’t have to be staggering, falling-down drunk to have driving problems if you’ve been drinking. A very small amount of alcohol can affect your driving ability and especially the decisions you make while driving.”
Drivers tested with .04% BAC had trouble with skid control, crash simulation and maneuvering their vehicles through traffic cones, Dennis said.
Alcohol is a sedative drug. Drinkers drink to relax. But in addition to calming our mood, alcohol sedates our muscles and higher brain functions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says a .02% BAC, which a 160-pound man would need about two drinks within an hour to achieve, creates some loss of judgment as well as declines in visual function and the ability to perform two tasks at the same time. At .05 BAC – the equivalent of about three drinks over an hour – a drinker is less alert and less inhibited and has difficulty steering and a reduced response to emergency driving situations.
With a .08 BAC, reached after about four drinks over an hour, judgment, self-control, reasoning and memory are impaired, according to the CDC. The ability of a driver to control their speed and to detect and interpret traffic signals is impaired.
At .10 BAC, a driver experiences reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately. At .15 BAC, a driver experiences substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving tasks, and in visual and auditory information processing.
Statistics for Car Accidents Involving Alcohol in the State of Texas
All 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico have made it illegal to drive with a BAC of .08% or higher. After years of lobbying states to lower legal BAC thresholds from .10%, Congress passed the Department of Transportation’s 2001 Appropriations Act requiring states to pass a .08% BAC limit by 2004 or begin losing federal highway construction funds.
Texas adopted its .08% BAC limit in 1999. By 2006, data showed that the new law did not reduce drunk driving in Texas.
In 2018, Texas led the nation in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In nearly half of all driving fatalities in Texas, at least one driver had a detectible amount of alcohol in their blood.
In 2,413 fatal crashes in Texas in 2018, the highest BAC registered was .08 or higher. Meanwhile in 1,673 fatal accidents, the highest BAC cited was more than .01 but less than .08.
The Texas Department of Transportation says, “about every 20 minutes in Texas, someone is hurt or killed in a crash involving alcohol.”
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have recommended reducing the legal BAC limit from .08% to 0.05%.
A fact sheet from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) titled Studies on the Effectiveness of .05 BAC cites numerous studies and organizations, including the NTSB and Academies of Sciences, that support .05% BAC laws. A presentation at the 2018 Lifesavers Conference in San Antonio, TX, estimated that 1,790 lives could be saved each year if all states lowered the BAC limit to .05%.
MADD also cites a 2015 AAA Traffic Safety Foundation survey that found that 63 percent of respondents in the U.S. support lowering the illegal BAC threshold from .08% to .05%.
In 2018, Utah became the first and only state to do so, as yet.
How a Dallas, TX, Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a driver who had been drinking, you may be eligible to obtain compensation for your losses. Our drunk driving car accident lawyers often work with investigators to prove that another driver’s alcohol impairment caused an accident – even if the other driver was not formally charged with driving while impaired. With evidence of alcohol involvement, we can demand that the at-fault driver’s insurance company pay appropriate compensation to you and/or file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf.
Contact the law offices of Kraft & Associates, P.C., in Dallas for a discussion of your rights after a car accident caused by a driver who had been drinking. The consultation provides a free explanation of the legal options available to you. If we represent you, we will handle your case on a contingency fee basis. You will not pay for our legal services unless we recover money for you.